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April 2014

Cook with the Best in the Northwest

Vegan Lunch Box, by Jennifer McCann
Reviewed by Mary Rose

Cook with the Best in the Northwest archive

 

I discovered the Vegan Lunch Box blog around 2004 when Jennifer McCann was in top form as the lunch-box-making queen. She posted photos and recipes showing the fabulous lunches she made for her son, who was then about 8 years old.

In 2006 Jennifer self-published a collection of her recipes as the Vegan Lunch Box. A second edition came out in 2008, then another collection called Vegan Lunch Box Around the World was published in 2009.

 


Vegan Lunch Box, by Jennifer McCann

 

It didn't matter if you were vegan or not (I'm not)—the Vegan Lunch Box blog was all about good food, creative cooking, and putting some love and joy into a daily necessity, lunch.

Jennifer still writes her blog occasionally, although sadly, as of this review, the last post is dated November 2012. Still, the archives are there, and I highly recommend you take time to explore them.

You can get some more information about the books at Vegan Lunch Box as well as a collection of recipes that may or may not have appeared on the blog.

Despite not being vegan, I have made many of Jennifer's recipes and was one of the first to buy her cookbook. Jennifer's writing has a certain joie de vivre that makes me want to try just about anything she recommends.

Recipes in the Vegan Lunch Box that I've made:

  • Massur Dal & Carrot Soup (too many times to count)
  • Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
  • Sneaky Momma's Black Bean Soup
  • Creamy Cauliflower Soup
  • Blueberry Lemon Mini-Scones (VERY tasty!)
  • Savory Autumn Leaf Pies
  • Phyllo Triangles
  • Aloo Samosas
  • Cucumber Raita
  • Easy Hummus
  • Blackstrap Gingerbread
  • Fluffy White Cupcakes
  • Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Gingerbread Vegans with Gingerbread Vegan Icing

One memorable night I treated myself to an Ethiopian meal with Split Pea Alecha (Stew), Mixed Vegetable Wat (Spicy Stew), Niter Kebbeh (Spice-Infused Oil), and Ethiopian Injera Bread. The recipes may sound exotic, but most ingredients are probably already in your cupboard. The one exception might be teff flour, which you can order from Bob's Red Mill. I bought mine in the bulk section of a local co-op, so I had just the amount I needed. It is pricey, but teff flour is useful in gluten-free baking and can be added to a lot of breads and even brownies.

The Sweet Cornbread is good as is but can also be used to create Vegan Corn Dogs. If you like to dig, you can follow links from the Vegan Twinkie recipe, but I am including the recipe here for your convenience. I haven't made these in a while, so I don't have a photo, but I can attest that they are well worth the effort!

I bought an official Twinkie pan, which is fun to use. But you could make the corn dogs in a large muffin tin. Obviously, you would cut the dogs in half, in thirds, or in fourths, or whatever size fits your tins.

Although Sweet Cornbread is found in the Vegan Lunch Box cookbook, the following recipes are cobbled together from the Vegan Lunch Box blog, with my own notes added.

Sweet Cornbread
from Vegan Lunch Box blog

Stir together:

2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup plain soymilk

In another bowl whisk:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup fine organic cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix wet and dry together and pour into a greased 9x9 square pan. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 F (or in mini-loaf or muffin pans for about 25 minutes), until tester comes out clean.

Note: This makes a thin batter.

Vegan Corn Dogs
from Vegan Lunch Box blog

Stir together:

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cups plain soymilk

In another bowl whisk:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup fine organic cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cover the bottom of the Twinkie or muffin cup with batter, set a (slightly trimmed) veggie dog in the middle, then cover it with more batter. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.

Note: This makes a thin batter.

As I recall, this recipe makes about 8 corn dogs.

 

~ * ~

 

Having highly recommended this cookbook, I must admit my favorite recipe by Jennifer is not even in it; you can find Vegan Goldfish Crackers online.

I frequently bring these to potlucks. Cutting out the dozens of 1-inch crackers is time consuming, and I never seem to quite roll them out thin enough to call them crackers exactly—more like pastry bites—but nonetheless I keep making them.

I splurged and bought the tiny fish cutter Jennifer recommends (>Mini Fish Cookie Cutter). Why not? You can make them any shape, but the fish are so danged cute.

 


Vegan goldfish take a while to make . . .


. . . but they are fun to eat.

 

If you have kids and need to entice them with clever items in their lunch box, this book would be worth buying. Some recipes will take concentrated loving care to match Jennifer's artistic flair, and luckily, while not every recipe has a photo, the more complicated ones are shown. But no matter what they look like, they will be healthy treats infused with your love.

If you have a picky eater, Jennifer offers tips to entice reluctant tots. Her young son had his picky moments, but he did like lima beans and sushi, so keep that in mind when you flip through the index.

Here is my take on the made-for-spring Sunflower Sandwich: slather cream cheese on an English muffin and top with a candied pineapple slice and a sprinkle of raisins and sunflower seeds. The Honeybee No-Bakes are a mixture of oat bran, coconut, and agave syrup.

See, even you could do that, right?

 


Sunflower Sandwich with Honeybee No-Bakes

 

 

Mary Rose lives high in the mountains of Montana. She enjoys traveling to farmers markets in summer and making snowballs during the long winter. She is happy to find many locally produced foods, including lentils, cheese, and stroopwafels.

 

Cook with the Best in the Northwest copyright 2014.
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